ANOTHER week and another derby match in the Borders in National League One. Hot on the heels of Gala getting the better of Melrose at Netherdale last Saturday, Kelso will be out to do the same this Saturday at Poynder Park.
When the two old rivals met at the Annay Road pitches back on the opening day of the season, Melrose won comfortably 36-8. But Kelso are a much improved side since then and go into this meeting on the back of three wins on the bounce.
However, those victories have been against sides who, like them, are in the bottom half of the table and it will be a bigger test against a fourth placed Melrose side who were hurt by the manner of the loss at Gala.
“The squad is looking forward to this Border derby at Poyder Park,” said Kelso captain Murray Hastie. “Last week against Dundee it was great to get a five point victory [26-10] in tough conditions, but there were a couple of chances that we didn’t finish off so we have been working on our execution this week.”
Melrose head coach Stuart Johnson was not a happy man after last week’s 24-7 reverse and the players had a meeting on Tuesday evening to try and work out why they are putting in inconsistent performances.
“Our side is a real ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ one at the moment,” Johnson said. “We can be really good one week and then horrendous the next, and it is usually away from home that guys are going into their shells and not performing, so I am just wondering which side is going to show up at Kelso.
“If we turn up and get it right then the result will take care of itself, but if we don’t then we could be on the end of another defeat. The players have taken a hard look at themselves since last weekend and hopefully that will help them put in a better performance.”
Elliot Ruthven is set to start at 12 for Melrose this week after doing well off the bench at Gala, while Archie Spencer, who started the season at Watsonians, is on the wing.
Seventh against ninth may not seem like the draw of the round, but it will be a crucial match between Watsonians and Ayr at Myreside.
Last week’s win over Boroughmuir put Watsonians 14 points clear of the drop zone and they know their sixth home victory from six would see them climb even further away from any danger.
Ayr are 11 points above 11th place, but have lost their last four games and have a few injuries. A positive away result would be very welcome for them right now and head coach Stuart Fenwick said: “It has been a tough month with a number of guys carrying knocks, but slowly we are starting to see them return to action and a big focus for us is doing the basics well. Despite it being a tough period the guys have learnt a lot and are always up for a challenge.”
Leaders Biggar face second bottom Boroughmuir at Meggetland. When the two sides met at Hatreemill back in September, Biggar ran out 53-7 winners.
Heriot’s Blues are seven points behind Biggar in second place and will start as favourites against bottom side Dundee High at Goldenacre. Dundee are now 21 points off safety and know that they must start winning soon to have any chance of even battling to stay up this term.
Highland are third, but having conceded 36 points when they defeated Cartha Queens Park on the opening day they know the return fixture at Canal Park will be tricky.
Cartha, in eighth, have lost their last two games and Highland head coach Dave Carson said: “We are looking to kick on in the second half of the season, but we know that Cartha will provide a stern test. We really need to take their forward pack o and try and get some ‘go forward’ because at Dumbreck in September we were 29-7 down before we came back. They are a good side on their day and we will have to be at our best to get the desired result.”
Gala are looking for their fifth win in a row when they welcome Stirling Wolves to Netherdale. The Wolves won the corresponding fixture 35-25 in September, but Gala captain Euan Dods said: “The way we defended when down to 13 men at the start of the second half last week against Melrose really set a bench mark for us going forward into the second half of the season.”
This Saturday’s National League Division One fixtures (all 2pm unless stated) –
Heriot’s Blues v Dundee High
Highland v Cartha Queens Park
Boroughmuir v Biggar
Gala v Stirling Wolves (3pm)
Kelso v Melrose (3pm)
Watsonians v Ayr (3pm)
How it stands –